Surya Saxena, Esq., Assistant United States Attorney, counsel for Plaintiff.
Douglas Olson, Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, counsel for Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JEFFREY J. KEYES, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained as a Result of Search and Seizure (Doc. No. 30), and Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements (Doc. No. 31). On April 26, 2013, the Court held a hearing on the motions at which the parties were represented by counsel. At the hearing, Brooklyn Center Police Officer Cody Turner testified about a January 21, 2012 traffic stop in which he seized evidence from an automobile Defendant was driving. Defendant also testified for the limited purpose of supporting his motion to suppress that evidence. The parties presented no evidence of statements Defendant seeks to suppress, and Defendant's counsel indicated that Defendant no longer intends to seek suppression of any statements. The parties presented oral argument at the hearing. As discussed below, the Court recommends that Defendant's motions be denied.
I. The January 21, 2012 Traffic Stop and Search
Defendant is charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 841(b)(1)(B). (Doc. No. 1, Indictment.) These charges stem from Brooklyn Center Police Officer Cody Turner's discovery of "crack" cocaine in a vehicle Defendant was driving on the evening of January 21, 2012. In his pending motion, Defendant argues that the Court should suppress the drugs Officer Turner found in the vehicle because the Government has failed to show that he voluntarily consented to any search of the car.
On the evening of January 21, 2012, around 9:30 p.m., Officer Turner was patrolling in the southeast district of Brooklyn Center when he decided to drive around an area known to be a high crime area. Specifically, Officer Turner decided to drive past a residence located at XXXX Bryant Avenue, which he and other members of his police force knew to be a house connected with drug trafficking.
Officer Turner did not directly approach the Bryant Avenue residence, but from a nearby intersection he was able to see a silver BMW sedan in the driveway. He explained that the engine of the BMW appeared to be running. Officer Turner drove around the block to observe the BMW from a different vantage point. After he moved his car to this new vantage point, he saw the BMW back out of the driveway. Officer Turner then turned on his police cruiser's headlights and began following the BMW.
Officer Turner followed the sedan for several blocks from a relatively close distance behind. After a few blocks, however, he saw that the BMW had pulled multiple blocks ahead of him. Officer Turner suspected the driver of the vehicle was exceeding the speed limit. The posted speed limit in the area was thirty miles per hour, and Officer Turner estimated that the BMW was traveling around forty miles per hour. To confirm his suspicion that the driver was speeding, Officer Turner used a forward-facing radar device in his police cruiser to measure the BMW's speed. He testified that the radar measured the BMW's speed at around forty-two miles per hour.
At that point, Officer Turner accelerated abruptly to catch up to the sedan. As he approached the rear of the BMW, the driver applied the brakes and began to slow down. Because Officer Turner had cause to believe the driver of the BMW had broken the speed limit, and because he had seen the vehicle leave from the driveway of a known drug-trafficking house, Officer Turner decided to stop the BMW. As soon as he made this decision, but before activating his emergency lights, he used his police cruiser's communications system to tell other officers working in Brooklyn Center that he would be conducting a traffic stop of a vehicle that had left the Bryant Avenue residence. He also informed Hennepin County Dispatch of the vehicle's location and its license plate number. He did this to ensure that he had backup officers on the way in case the traffic stop turned out to involve more than a speeding ticket. After putting out these calls for backup, Officer Turner activated the emergency lights on top of his police cruiser. Almost immediately, the driver of the BMW pulled the car over to the right side of the road.
When the BMW stopped, Officer Turner exited his police cruiser and approached the driver's side door of the BMW. He asked the driver for his license and proof of insurance. Using the driver's license, Officer Turner identified the driver as Defendant, Jeffrey Mandel Fletcher. Officer Turner testified that Defendant's behavior when asked for his driver's license and proof of insurance was "very nervous, " which Officer Turner characterized as Defendant rapidly looking around his car as he searched for his license and then his insurance, and Defendant talking quickly. When Defendant handed Officer Turner the insurance card for the vehicle, Officer Turner noticed that the insurance had expired, but Defendant told him that the insurance remained current. Officer Turner testified that Defendant did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. Officer Turner also testified that Defendant appeared to understand the English language.
Officer Turner testified that he then asked Defendant where he was coming from to see whether Defendant would mention having left the Bryant Avenue residence minutes before. Defendant said nothing about the Bryant Avenue residence, but told Officer Turner that he had just exited off Interstate 94 and was on his way to pick up his girlfriend. Because he believed that Defendant was being dishonest with him about where he had just been, Officer Turner asked Defendant "if there was anything illegal in his vehicle." Officer Turner testified that rather than providing a "yes" or "no" answer, Defendant told him "You can search it if you want to, sir." Officer Turner found this answer surprising, because he typically receives a "yes" or "no" answer to this type of question during a traffic stop, or the driver will provide some type of excuse ...